Wednesday 7 December 2022
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PoliticsIndiaWhy Hardeep Singh Puri should not have posted tweets about Rohingyas

Why Hardeep Singh Puri should not have posted tweets about Rohingyas

In an apparent bid to impress the national and international cabal, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted this morning that the Delhi government would provide Economically Weaker Sections falts in the capital city to Rohingyas, the infamous ethnic-religious minority community of Burma/Myanmar who are not welcome in any country. The minister said in one of the tweets that this was to demonstrate that the union government was not implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

"India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country. In a landmark decision all #Rohingya #Refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in (the) Bakkarwala area of Delhi. They will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR IDs & round-the-clock Delhi Police protection," Puri wrote in one tweet.

In the next tweet in the thread, the union minister wrote, "Those who made a career out of spreading canards on India’s refugee policy deliberately linking it to CAA will be disappointed. India respects & follows UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed."

A nationwide furore followed the tweets after which the Ministry of Home Affairs first clarified that these Rohingyas were carrying UNHCR cards. Twitter users blasted the defence to smithereens saying India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and hence not obligated to shelter Rohingyas.

Finally, the MHA clarified that the place where the government is arranging the Rohingyas' stay is a detention centre.

Why should Hardeep Singh Puri not have posted the tweets about Rohingyas?

First of all, home is not Puri's ministry. He is the union minister for housing and urban affairs and for petroleum and natural gas. Offering refugee status or shelter to any group of people cannot be his call.

Further, Puri passed on the onus of sheltering Rohingyas to the Government of Delhi, which is the AAP government. In the given matter, he does not have that authority either.

Third, EWS is a classification for Indian citizens. Rohingyas are not Indian citizens.

Fourth, his justification citing the UN was not valid as explained above.

Fifth, the Indian population by and large wants Rohingyas deported. Sheltering them in EWS flats in a locality of the national capital was a disastrous statement to make in domestic politics.

But a union minister cannot generally tweet opinions that would invite condemnation from the politically correct world, can he?

Since home is not Puri's portfolio, he should not have dabbled in the affair at all. This is one of several examples from the BJP-led government as well as the larger Sangh Parivar when a left-leaning or accommodating opinion was voiced by a minister or office bearer where the more judicious option would have been to stay quiet and be non-committal about it.

RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's "DNA" theory and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's desperate Muslim outreach programme are instances in the same league. This purportedly tolerant, pluralist, multicultural stance fails to draw Muslims close to the Parivar on the one hand and invites the ire of Hindu supporters of the dispensation on the other. It is a lose-lose proposition.

How did the MHA tackle the situation?

The MHA indirectly blamed the media for the controversy. "With respect to news reports in certain sections of media regarding Rohingya illegal foreigners, it is clarified that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not given any directions to provide EWS flats to Rohingya illegal at Bakkarwala in New Delhi," the ministry wrote.

In two more tweets in the thread, the ministry said, "Govt of Delhi proposed to shift the Rohingyas to a new location. MHA has directed the GNCTD to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location as MHA has already taken up the matter of their with the concerned country through MEA" and "Illegal foreigners are to be kept in Detention till their as per law. The Government of Delhi has not declared the present location as a Detention Centre. They have been directed to do the same immediately."

Why are Rohingyas unwanted in their own country?

Rohingyas are Bengali Muslims but not Bangladeshi Muslims. They hail from an area in Myanmar called Arakan. Since the arrival of Islam in the Indianised part of south-east Asia, including Myanmar/Burma, these Bengali Muslims, also referred to as Rakhine Muslims, have clashed with the majority of the country. Their status in the Arakan area is shaky also because no credible historical account establishes their roots.

the Rohingyas became altogether unwanted in Burma after the 1962 coup.

Between 1950 and 1954, the Burma Army launched several military operations against Rohingya mujahideen/terrorists in northern Arakan. In the latter half of 1954, the mujahideen again began attacking local authorities and soldiers stationed around Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung. Hundreds of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists began hunger strikes in Rangoon (present-day Yangon) in protest of the attacks and to encourage the government to respond.

A group of 150 Rohingya terrorists led by Shore Maluk and Zurah surrendered to government forces in 1957. An additional 214 mujahideen under the leadership of al-Rashid disarmed and surrendered to government forces on 7 November 1957.

By the end of the 1950s, the Burmese government began implementing various policies aimed at reconciliation in Arakan. The governments of Burma and Pakistan began negotiating on how to deal with the mujahideen at their border. On 1 May 1961, the Mayu Frontier District was established in Arakan to appease the Rohingyas.

On 4 July 1961, 290 mujahideen in southern Maungdaw Township surrendered their arms in front of Brigadier-General Aung Gyi, who was Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Army at the time. On 15 November 1961, a few more mujahideen surrendered to Aung Gyi in Buthidaung. However, dozens of mujahideen remained under the command of Moulvi Jafar Kawal, 40 under Abdul Latif, and 80 under Annul Jauli; all these groups lacked local support and unity, which led them to become rice smugglers around the end of the 1960s.

On 26 April 1964, the Rohingya Independence Front (RIF) was established with the goal of creating an autonomous Muslim zone for the Rohingya.

Then, Moulvi Jafar Kawal founded the Rohingya Liberation Party (RLP) on 15 July 1972 after mobilising various former mujahideen factions under his command. Kawal appointed himself chairman of the party, Abdul Latif as vice-chairman and minister of military affairs, and Muhammad Jafar Habib, a graduate of Rangoon University, as secretary general. Their strength increased from 200 terrorists at their foundation to 500 by 1974. The RLP was largely based in the jungles near Buthidaung and was armed with weapons smuggled from Bangladesh. After a massive military operation by the Tatmadaw in July 1974, Kawal and most of his men fled across the border into Bangladesh. With the involvement of a minister in these terrorist activities, the Burmese majority lost faith in these Muslims' willingness to live in peace.

There have been several disintegrations in the Rohingya terrorist groups ever since while the Myanmarese government has swung between democracy and military rule. But the mutual distrust between the Burmese people and Rohingyas that developed in the 1960s never ended.

Before the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis and the military crackdown in 2016 and 2017, the Rohingya population in Myanmar was close to 1.4 million, chiefly in the northern Rakhine townships, which were 80–98% Rohingya.

Since 2015, over 9,00,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to south-eastern Bangladesh alone, and more to other surrounding countries, and major Muslim nations. More than 1,00,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are confined in camps for internally displaced persons. Shortly before a Rohingya rebel attack that killed 12 security forces on 25 August 2017, the Myanmar military launched "clearance operations" against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state that, according to NGOs, the Bangladeshi government and international news media, left many dead, and many more injured, tortured or raped, with villages burned. The government of Myanmar has denied the allegations.

Many Rohingyas have fled to southeastern Bangladesh, where there are over 900,000 refugees, as well as to India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. More than 100,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar live in camps for internally displaced persons, and the authorities do not allow them to leave.

What about the acceptability of Rohingyas outside Burma?

The Rohingya people have been described as "one of the world's least wanted minorities". The BBC also called them "the most persecuted" in its 18 February 2010 report about the ethnic group's status in Bangladesh, a country that now has a Rohingya refugee population much larger than what its economy can afford.

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